KSDK's Stunt Causes Fear for Parents, Kids


KSDK pulled a boneheaded stunt that had parents panicked and kids scared, and it's not even ratings yet.

As FTVLive FIRST told you, the station thought it would be a good idea to "test" school security at local high schools.

With the rash of school shootings that have happened, the station figured they could milk the story for ratings.

They ended up scaring the hell out of a community.

KSDK's undercover story to test security in local schools triggered a lockdown Thursday at Kirkwood High, angering parents and raising questions about media ethics.

Students and teachers at the school were huddled in classrooms with the lights off for about 40 minutes Thursday afternoon after a man came into the school and asked to speak with security, then left.

The visit was one of five made by the television station to schools in the region aimed at exposing lapses in school security.

After the FTVLive report and hours of social media uproar, KSDK aired the news report at 10 p.m.

During the segment, the station showed how a staff member was unable to enter four schools unimpeded, but was able to walk right into Kirkwood High School, which had no buzzers at the door and whose entrance was not locked. The news report also questioned why the Kirkwood lockdown took place an hour after the reporter left the school building.

Even before the segment aired, KSDK used its 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts to issue a statement standing by its reporting.

Kirkwood School District spokeswoman Ginger Cayce said the incident highlighted problems in the district security Thursday. But she expressed frustration over the station’s handling of the situation.

“We learned some things from this, but we are still dismayed that a call was not given after to let us know this was a test,” Cayce said. “We could have prevented the alarm to our parents, students and staff.”

The KSDK reporter initially gave his name and cellphone number and when the Kirkwood High secretary left to get the school resource officer, the man left the office, Cayce said. Administrators became alarmed when he asked the location of a restroom, left the office, but went a different direction.

When they called his cellphone, he did not answer, but his voicemail said he was a KSDK reporter. Cayce said she tried three times to confirm with the news station that the man was actually with KSDK with no success.

“I told them ‘I’m going to have to go into lockdown if you can’t confirm that this was a test,’” she said. “When we couldn’t confirm or deny it, we had no choice.”

Stacey Woodruff said she was in tears when she first heard about the lockdown, and spent the entire time communicating with her 14-year-old daughter, who was in a math class, on her cellphone. She said her teacher was keeping the students calm.

“She kept saying, ‘Mom, I’m OK,” Woodruff said. “When I found out it was KSDK, I was and still am livid.”

Among the Kirkwood students on lockdown was freshman Caroline Goff, 14.

“We got the announcement over the intercom … then the principal walked by and said, ‘You need to lock the door and turn off the lights.’”

The students were instructed to stand against the walls, out of the sight from anyone passing in the halls. Caroline said they stood and listened for close to an hour, worrying that sounds they were hearing outside — including what were apparently police on the roof — were the noises of a gunman.

“We would hear footsteps ... We were really scared, but we were all trying not to show it,” she said. “My teacher told our class that he would step in front of the person and let us all leave” if it came to that.

“We were scared that something was going to happen to us, like at Sandy Hook,” she said, referring to the 2012 school massacre in Connecticut.

No doubt it was an idiotic move by the station and the story idea was not planned out very well. Someone should be called on the carpet and the station needs to step up and take responsibility. 

Scaring the hell out of parents and students is not cool, no matter how many rating points it brings you. 

H/T St. Louis Post Dispatch